Avid Modjtabai took an indirect path to leading Wells Fargo's technology and operations.

"I'm not sure there are many CIOs that came from HR," she says.

Modjtabai was Wells Fargo's human resources director from 2005 to 2007. Prior to that she was in charge of its Internet services, and in her current role, Modjtabai has overseen several tech initiatives that set Wells Fargo apart.

One notable example is a new system that allows customers to eliminate paper receipts at automated teller machines, receiving them instead through online banking. The system, which rolled out nationwide in June, is the latest in Wells Fargo's efforts to use technology to eliminate paper in customer-facing and back-office functions.

"We've already electronified the majority of our customers' statements," Modjtabai says. "We've been an industry leader in this."

Wells Fargo has been aggressive in mobile banking, too. It was one of the first to realize that mobile banking services are not necessarily a subset of online banking; in February, it began to sever the tie between the two by allowing consumers to bank by text message even if they do not bank online.

In addition to pursuing these projects, Modjtabai is focused on the ongoing integration of Wachovia Corp., which Wells bought in 2008.

"Our year ahead is going to be very, very critical, as we are bringing the integration into completion," she says.

Modjtabai tries to share her success by encouraging the careers of other women within Wells Fargo.

"I've been very fortunate to work with many bright and talented women and had the privilege of formally mentoring some," she says. "They reach out to me and they ask if they can spend time with me, and I always make the time."

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